Papua New Guinea trip report

Old Mar 12th, 2009, 07:42 AM
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Well, this does sound like a bit too much roughing it for Jeane and I. We have looked at Trans Niugini Tours for the May Tumbana show - seems to have less of the spiders and fried sago palm grubs and more up-market accomodations (the cost is also much higher). Much to our regret, it seems that however you do PNG, it requires a minimum of 3 weeks, especially if the itinerary includes Sydney.

Thanks for providing the one and only PNG trip report on this forum...
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 11:31 AM
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Like others, the spiders and grubs give me pause. But the cultural experiences are so wonderful, I keep asking myself whether I could do it.

Thank you, thank you for this report!
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 02:28 PM
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This is so inspiring -- looking forward to more.
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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Eating grubs was purely voluntary; it was only because some of our group wanted to have a meal of traditional foods we were offered them. And, me being me, was one of the few who tried them. I just figure, if other people like something, maybe I will too.

ekscrunchy, marya, thursdaysd, Thank you for your comments; glad you are enjoying this.

Femi, Oh, please don’t worry about spiders, this was the only one of this size we saw—and it was harmless to humans. And—you ate a Thai grub? Tell me more about that.

Guenmai, I’m so glad “my” spider wasn’t moving.

HawaiianT, what a horrible experience for you as a little child. You have a good reason to be scared of spiders—I don’t.

Craig, for a first trip I’d definitely go with Trans Niugini Tours (and we did!). We wanted to do more roughing it on our second trip. When we return (yes—we’re already thinking about a next trip), we’ll use Trans Niugini and do a custom tour. That May Tumbana show trip does look like a good one. But, you’re correct, even with only 3 days in Sydney, you’d still be gone 2 ½ weeks. Shame they don’t have their return departure day on the Sunday.

Kathie, of course you could do it—I’ve read your Borneo trip report!

Eve
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 02:57 PM
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Day 14: Fly from Wewak to Port Moresby. Rouna Falls, Bomana WW II cemetery.
Bomana cemetery is well kept, with a plaque showing the Kokoda Trail. I believe that megalomaniac, power hungry people who start wars such as WWII are truly, truly evil. I felt that way when I stood on Normandy Beach in France and couldn’t keep the tears away, and felt it here in so many places, too. We met a man from Tasmania whose dad had died on the Kokoda Trail. He was a newborn at the time so never knew his dad and was going on a group trek with some other Australians whose fathers had also died on the trail while trying to keep the Japanese troops from getting overland to Port Moresby. While we were in the Trobriands a few days later, one of the local men brought us an American soldier’s dog tag he’d found.

Day 15: Port Moresby. National Parliament, National Museum, Botanical Gardens, Hanuabada stilt village, fish market.
The National Museum was fascinating--they have done a fantastic job. We spent about an hour and I would have happily spent many more hours there.

The National Parliament is impressive, and the Botanical Gardens gave us a chance to see the Raggiana Bird of Paradise, the national bird.

The people of Hanuabada stilt village were most pleasant and showed us around. One of our group’s hat got blown off by the wind into the ocean and a boy of not more than eight immediately jumped in, swam after it, and brought it back. The people are live mostly from harvesting the sea.

Days 16, 17 and 18: Fly to Kiriwina Island, Trobriands. Overnights at Butia Lodge.
I hadn’t been expecting much for this part of the trip, and thoroughly enjoyed these three days. It had been raining a lot before we came and the locals were starting to be concerned about getting their planting done.

Most of the people look Polynesian, and their costumes (grass skirts for the women and simple bark loin coverings for the men) and dancing also reflect that—the body above the waist remains fairly stationary while the hips do the moving. They are softly spoken. They are scrupulously clean—never smelled one sweaty armpit. Unfortunately, like on the mainland, quite a few people do chew betel nut, so their teeth are discolored.

From what I could see, there is little opportunity for paid employment; the adults work their gardens, do a little fishing, and on occasion sell some of their crafts. The men do the carving, and very highly skilled it is, too. I saw some exquisite work, the wood highly polished, carefully carved, much with inlaid mother of pearl.

Some of the things we did: had lunch on the beach; took outrigger rides; watched school kids in traditional dress dance; saw structures where yams are stored and saw one huge yam, must have been all of 5 foot long, being carried down the road by two young men; spent some time with villagers who were getting ready for a memorial ceremony and feast in remembrance of their chief’s brother who had died the previous year, with baskets and baskets of banana leaf money stacked around the village central ground; visited the local hospital and a school; and on our final evening the staff of the Butia Lodge put on a cultural show for us.

We all got very good at pretending we couldn’t feel the little hands of preschool children touching our legs, I suppose to see if the white would rub off, and then hearing their mothers or older children gently scolding them. I’m glad we all knew that the excited shouts of “Dimdim! Dimdim!” by the children, didn’t mean what it sounds like to us, although it may have been correct.

Day 19: Kiriwina. Fly to Port Moresby.
It was pelting down with rain while we were waiting for our plane to arrive to fly us back to Port Moresby, and there was some question whether it would be able to land but the rain did ease off enough for it to do so.

Back in Port Moresby, New Guinea Expeditions didn’t arrange or pay for accommodation or food for their guide, who had been with us throughout the trip. He knew no one in Port Moresby (he’s from the Mt. Hagen area). Fortunately our ElderTreks guide found this out when he asked where he would be staying so they could coordinate the times for getting our group and our luggage to the airport the next morning. Our ETG made arrangements for him to stay in the second bed in our ETG’s room, and he ate with us.

After a goodbye party, it was time to return to our rooms and do some last minute rearranging. Surprisingly enough, of the three mudmen statues I bought, only one needed surgery to reattach an arm and a leg. As carefully as my husband had packed them, I still hadn’t believed they’d make it without being in a thousand pieces.

Day 20: Fly home.
Another long, but uneventful--the best kind--trip home.


Odds and Ends:

A fruit I ate for the first time on this trip was the pommelo—I really gorged on them. The fruit looked like grapefruit but with fatter whatever-you-call-the-juicy-little-globes-that-are-inside, and didn’t have a grapefruit taste--very mellow and refreshing. I bought some from the supermarket when I returned home but, although similar in looks, they were more tart and grapefruity tasting. I’ve since read that when grown here in the USA, they do taste more like grapefruit and it was suggested this might be because of the difference in soil.

While on Kiriwina, I couldn’t get used to being encouraged to eat all the crab I wanted, and there were heaping platters of it. Here in Colorado it is horrendously expensive, but I suppose there it is cheap eats.

Papua New Guinea is an expensive place to visit; however, the logistics of getting around in a timely manner requires flying between many places. I’ve been to over twenty countries and this was my second visit to PNG, but, unless I was just going to stay in one place such as Madang, I wouldn’t dream of not using a local tour operator. For first time visitors, I’d strongly suggest Trans Niugini (or a company that uses them for their land operator, such as AsiaTranspacific Journeys). They’ve been in business a long time, are highly reputable and knowledgeable, and you definitely get what you pay for with them. Their whole operation is first class.

If you can make it to PNG, the experience, both under and above water, is unforgettable.
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 03:58 PM
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Thanks for the great report. I didn't realise pommelos might taste different elsewhere. As you mentioned, they taste like grapefruit here, but now I know to give them a try if I come across them in a different region. Same goes for Custard apples, known here as cherimoyas. I thought they were fantastic and couldn't get enough while I was in Asia, not so here at home.

I walked into a shop on the road between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and sitting at the desk a little girl was steadily working her way through what looked like a bowl of mini french fries. Turns out they were lightly toasted grubs. It took quite a bit of courage to finally put one in my mouth. I think I *might* have taken a liking to them if it weren't that I could feel every body segment and the dozens of leg buds on my tongue. Crispy on the outside, not much to the inside...

Preview button not working, is it just my computer?
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Old Mar 12th, 2009, 05:41 PM
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LOL, Eve, of course you're right that we could do it. But I often have that initial reaction when I read of an adventure like this. Would I sample the grubs? Who knows!

Thank you so much for your report and for the tour company recommendation.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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Thanks for the wonderful report! Our %-day trip on the Sepik was MUCH tamer than yours. We visited loads of villages and saw great dances, little plays put on by the villagers and terrific carvings, we went back to air-conditioned comfort afterwards. I passed on the grubs, though they were a bargain a 3 for less than a penny at the market. The sago pancake I tried in one of the villages was not something I'd care to repeat, and it's unfortunate that they use this as a staple of their diet since it has little nutrition.

I leave for PNG in 3 weeks, but unfortunately won't see much on land, only the wonderful reefs.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 04:11 PM
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Oops - make that 5-day, not %- day.
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 04:14 PM
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susncrg--I loved our "tame" first visit, wouldn't have had our first trip there any other way. We went on the Sepik Spirit and it was wonderful. Also stayed at the Karawari Lodge--fabulous. Where did you stay on the Sepik? Are you diving on your upcoming trip? Have you done that before?
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Old Mar 18th, 2009, 09:44 AM
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We were on a boat out of Madang, that I believe no longer does the Sepik trip, the Melanesian Discoverer. Stopped in Murik Lakes in Mendam village, Angoram, Tambanum, Kamindibit, Palimbei, Yenchen and Ambon. We loved everything except the incredible heat. I would recommend it to anyone wantring to go to PNG.

Yes we are diving - that's the real purpose for the trip. The last two trips were in Kimbe Bay and this time will be Milne Bay. Have you dived there?
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 08:12 AM
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I think you're correct--the Melanesian Discover is no more. I don't know how that boat was, but the Sepik Spirit was magnificient.

Haven't dived Milne Bay--maybe next time. We dived Kimbe Bay on the FeBrina. Great liveaboard and crew. I'd be very interested in your comparison of diving in the two areas when you return.
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 10:33 AM
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We are avid snorkelers who do some diving. We have been through much of Thailand, Malaysia, Great Barrier, Central America, etc. Will the snorkeling top or equal the Great Barrier Reef, Simillan Islands, Koh Tao, Prehentians, if you have been to any of the?
Also being in our mid-60's we are concerned about the very limited highly qualified physicians available within 30-60 minutes for treatment. Do you have any observation on that matter?
Thanks.
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 06:28 AM
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Wow, this is a fascinating report, thank you for posting ! How about some photos, please ????
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 03:09 PM
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StanKase: Haven't dived any of the places you have, except Central America. I've heard it's comparable to the Great Barrier Reef, though I imagine it depends where you dive on the GBR or around PNG. The Solomons were maybe a tad better, at least comparing the trips we took, but both places were superb. Would go back to either in a heartbeat.

As far as medical--we used DAN, as members. Fortunately never had to use it. We talked to DAN and also the dive operators with questions like you have, and got satisfactory answers. We used DAN rather than one of the other travel insurance companies because of their vast experience with divers and diving problems.
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 03:12 PM
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Kellyee21--Will work on this. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm looking forward to when we can post photos with our travel reports here on Fodors.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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O.K., I've finally got pictures up! The link goes to the trip report, same as above but with some minor corrections, and with pictures. Then you can click to links on the side navigation bar to get to more pictures, or from the bottom of the page. I tried to get the pages with the montage of pictures to just fill the screen but wasn't able to do this, it was way too big, so put in a small picture which you can click on to see the much bigger one.

http://sites.google.com/site/evecolorado/Home

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all your good comments and support.
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Old Jun 11th, 2009, 06:45 PM
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Hi Eve,

Wanted to touch base after visiting PNG with Trans Niugini (Greg Stathakis out of Santa Barbara) for the Tumbuna Show. What a blast! Ten of us, all together, and it went like
clockwork. Greg does a fantastic job, covering all bases at all times. The Tumbuna
was very intimate (12 groups participating). Asia-Transpacific was the only other
tour there. LOTS of photo opportunities, with a great deal of local cooperation!
Spent 3 days (pre-tour) in Sydney & finished with 2 days in Cairns, visiting the GBR.
Trip of a lifetime!

Pete
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Old Jun 12th, 2009, 03:02 PM
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Glad this thread got topped because I missed your pictures the first time around. Wow!
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 12:10 PM
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Just got back from a three week trip to southern England, London and Paris with the two oldest grandsons (just turned 12 and 13). We had a fabulous time. The weather cooperated nicely and we only had a couple of drizzly days. They were wonderful travelers and tried (and liked) anything put in front of them, even stuff they'd never had before such as mussels and snails (oops, sorry, escargot).

And, Pete, thank you for reporting back on your experience--so glad to hear you had a great trip. There is something magical about PNG. If you put your photos on a photo sharing site, I'd be very interested in seeing them (evecolorado at q dot com.

Thanks, Femi, for your nice comment. I'm off, now, to savor your trip report on South Africa.

Eve
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